A statement released today by the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief network stressed that the nation’s food banks are having to deep into their reserves and ration food to recipients in order to meet increased demand. “The holidays have come and gone, and food banks continue to face one of the toughest periods in their history. We have seen dramatic declines in commodity support from the federal government and private food donations,” said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest. “Every day that goes by without a new Farm Bill is a day without hope for food banks around the country. Our member food banks are being forced to dip into their limited financial reserves to purchase food and ration it to people in need.”
The economic downturn has created a 30% increase in demand at food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens around the country. Food price inflation is at a recent memory high. Food prices have increased 5.5% in the past six months. The number of participants in the food stamp program has increased by one million in the past year. Congress has been haggling over the details of a new farm bill for now. This means that the 2002 Farm bill is still in effect. President Bush signed a temporary extension of the current bill than runs until April 18. Bush has called on the Congress to either pass the new bill or a one year extension of the current bill by the current temporary extension deadline.
“A one year extension to the Farm Bill would be catastrophic for food banks and those they serve,” said Escarra. “The charitable sector does not have the capacity to meet dramatically increasing requests for food assistance. It is critical for Congress to show leadership by passing a Farm Bill, and for the President to show compassion by signing it. If that happens, none of those in our great nation who face hunger daily will have to wait longer for relief.”
Republicans have long been opposed to farm bills. They view them as
New Deal relics. The main problems that Republicans have with this bill are that it doesn’t reform the subsidy payment system, and it calls for tax increases on U.S. subsidiaries of foreign agricultural companies. Because of the tax increase, Bush has threatened to veto the bill, but has said he is open to compromise. So, while the politicians bicker over ideology, the demand for food aid goes up, and without something being done, more Americans will go hungry.
We tend to think of the hungry in America only has the homeless, but as more people middle class people lose their jobs, or get squeezed by this economy, the hungry could be a co-worker, a neighbor, or maybe even a friend. We are going through a terrible economic stretch, and while the politicians can’t fix the economy, they can help many good people get through a rough patch.